Thursday, 22 September 2011

"Hey Nappy, this has got scrabble beat a mile! You ought'a patent it."

Lets do something today that I don't usually like: Inspect a Warner cartoon from 1956.
Post-shutdown Warner Brothers cartoons aren't too great in my book. Nothing ever looked as good as it did before: the animation seems cheaper and more conservative, and the art-deco UPA-influenced backgrounds are something I'll never get over.
...And yet, I love the 1956 Friz pictures! Asfar as the Frleng unit is concerned, 1956 features a number of strong and surprisingly fresh cartoons like "Rabbitson Crusoe" and "Two crows from tacos". Another one is "Napoleon Bunny-part":

Obligatory Animation breakdown:
0:45-1:17 Virgil Ross
1:24-2:34 Gerry Chiniquy
2:35-3:55  Arthur Davis
3:56-4:33 Virgil Ross
4:34-5:13 Art Davis
5:14-5:46 Virgil Ross
5:47-6:02 Gerry Chiniquy
6:03-6:43 Art Davis
6:44-6:59 Gerry Chiniquy

With the chosen premise, this feels almost like a Propaganda short from the mid-1940s; it's as if Friz and Warren Foster wanted to make fun of Hitler, but they couldn't really do that anymore, so they used Napoleon instead.
The snuff tobacco sequence has been censored from the version they currently show in Canada.

Gerry Chiniquy's animation here is a little more appealing than it was back in the 1940s, but it's not quite as fast. In the 1950s Gerry put lots of head twists in his animation, and does so liberally in the artillery sequence; most notably at 1:54.
The layouts in this cartoon are very nice as well, especially on angular shots like Bugs entering Napoleon's room, and most of the scenes on the stairs.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Happy birthday, Dan Povenmire!

It's September 18th, a very special day. Happy birthday, Grandma!
It's also the birthday of another very special person, Dan Povenmire:

Dan Povenmire is my hero. He, along with his partner Swampy Marsh, have done some truly great things in animation. They are the creators of "Phineas and Ferb", which is probably the greatest show currently on TV. Dan plays the voice of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, an evil scientist who regularly engages in evil and very very funny exploits. But Doofenshmirtz is only one of the great things Dan has given us.
Dan K. Povenmire was born September 18th, 1963. He was raised in Alabama, where his mother encouraged him to partake in fun activities, and to enjoy the summer months. With artistic aspirations, Povenmire dreamed of brush and pallet, but ended up with only the brush. Anyway, he was very good at art in his childhood years. He was even winning art contests, and making money from his works.
Dan Povenmire doesn't really come up in the animation industry until 1990, doing storyboards on "Teenage mutant ninja turtles", and a show called "James Bond junior". When The Simpsons moved their animation unit from Klasky-Csupo to Film Roman in 1992, he became a character animator, first credited on the episode "Lisa the beauty queen" directed by Mark Kirkland. Povenmire also worked on "Mr. Plow", "Homer's triple by-pass", "Homer's barbershop quartet", and "Cape Feare", among others. While working on The Simpsons, he befriended one Jeff 'Swampy' Marsh, who worked as a layout artist. In 1993, Jeff and Dan went to Nickelodeon, to produce episodes of "Rocko's modern life" for Joe Murray. The first episode they made together was "The good the bad and the wallaby", which featured an action chase scene, a musical number, and a lude gag where Heifer the steer is sucked off by a milking machine.
Good-Bad-Wallaby by PigLips

Dan and Swampy went on to make several more fine and funny Rocko shows, including "Zanzibar", the environmentally themed musical. Dan and Swampy won an award for writing the songs.
Aside from his involvement in Rocko's modern life, Povenmire continued to animate on The Simpsons, working on "And Maggie makes 3", "Homer vs. Patty and Selma", the first half of the 'Who shot Mr. Burns' saga, and "You only move twice". In the fourth and final season of Rocko's modern life, Dan got to direct his own episode, "Driving Mrs. Wolf". After Rocko, Swampy went to England, and Dan Povenmire stayed on at Nickelodeon, making storyboards and such on shows like "Hey Arnold", "CatDog", and "Spongebob Squarepants".
Then came Family Guy. Dan Povenmire joined up during season 2, and he directed the controversial "When you wish upon a Wienstien" and "Road to Rhode island" episodes. Dan brought a refined sense of song and dance to Family Guy, and kicked off the popular series of Brian and Stewie road trip episodes, which have been an institution ever since. Dan continued to direct until Family Guy met it's maker in 2001, putting out a brilliant collection of episodes including "To love and die in Dixie", and "Brian wallows, Peter's swallows", highlights of the initial run.
When Family Guy was canned, Dan went back to storyboard The Simpsons during season 13; he also wrote a few episodes of SpongeBob, and Directed some of the 'Larry Doyle' Looney Tunes shorts, which have been not been very well received.
Eventually they brought Family Guy back in 2005, and Dan was reinstated. He directed his own episodes, as well as musical numbers in other episodes, like 'Wake me up before you go-go' in "Jungle Love", and 'Shipoopi', which is probably his most famous work, from "Patriot Games".
With an incredible sense of timing, and the ability to incorporate gags and ideas with music on par with Friz Freleng and Wilfred Jackson, Dan Povenmire was at the top of his game. In 2007, Dan Povenmire left Family Guy. He talked Swampy Marsh into coming back from England, and the two of them went to Disney in attempt create a show of their own design, which they had been working since 1994. While it was an unfortunate blow for Family Guy, surely this new development would provide something even better? And now we come to Phineas and Ferb.
It's a show about two kids who have a pet Platypus, and they're enjoying the summer time. Their paranoid sister Canadace is always trying to get the boys in trouble, because they're summer time activities are particularly unusual, and often larger than life. Meanwhile the Platypus is a secret agent, tasked with preventing the villainous Dr. Doofenshmirtz from taking over the tri-state area with his half-baked evil schemes. If you haven't seen this show, I suggest you check it out, because it's pretty funny. Dan Povenmire has even put in some of those great musical numbers of his.
Congratulations on a brilliant career and a wealth of animated entertainment, Mr. Povenmire. You are probably the most entertaining person alive right now.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Rover Dangerfield Combine

We're currently in the midst of harvest season, an important time here in Saskatchewan. I went on a trip down to Craik last Saturday to have dinner with some relatives, and seeing the farmers out harvesting with their combines inspired me. I remembered my childhood, and one strange, surreal, twisted, disturbing, unforgettable animated moment that has to be seen to be believed:

The Rover Dangerfield combine.


Yeah, THAT doesn't happen when something is picked up by a combine. I have relatives who have run over skunks with these things, and THIS isn't the way they tell it. Like they sing on Phineas and Ferb, cold hard reality can get in the way. Maybe all this goes without saying for people who are smarter than me, but considering what the rest of the film is like, I have no reason not to expect the worst. In context of the film, this moment of unbridled cartoonyness just doesn't belong! 
A Combine harvester is designed to cut down grain stalks, and like any other dignified grain threshing machine, crush the seeds out of them. They are full of sharp metal pointy parts, so a brutal pulverising is imminent. The pipe-like unloader is usually mounted on the right side of the combine, and is lined with sharp metal auger flighting. I'm pretty sure they aren't that flexible.
And what the hell is up with those sound effects?!? They're even more disturbing than the visuals! Is that sound supposed to be the combine or the dog??
A more accurate depiction of this is provided by that cat and mouse duo who always get it right, no matter how gruesome, Itchy and Scratchy:

The featured combine appears to be an International Harvester machine, judging by the windows.
The venerable 'IH' symbol has been replaced with an MC in the film. Perhaps a reference to Matthew O'Callaghan working on this sequence?

For those of you who don't know what Rover Dangerfield is, I'll step aside and let a professional elaborate on it:

I don't hate the film as much as the Critic. I grew up watching this; it's a part of me. Regardless, it's not without its flaws wacky combines.

"Oh Belvedere, come here boy!"

Today, lets look at one of the greatest cartoons Chuck Jones ever made: Dog gone south, from 1950. Charlie Dog is kicked off the train in the deep south(Possibly in Platte Falls Missouri), and tries to "endear himself into a good home" with a local Colonel on his plantation. The Colonel hates Yankees from the north, which Charlie happens to be thoroughly, so Charlie must turn him against his current dog, Belvedere, and usurp him. Hilarity ensues. Animators are Ben, Lloyd, Ken, and Phil Monroe, joined by Emery Hawkins.

Animation breakdown:
0:34-1:32 Ben Washam
1:33-1:37 Lloyd Vaughan
1:38-2:03 Emery Hawkins
2:04-2:10 Ben Washam
2:11-2:20 Lloyd Vaughan
2:21-2:37 Emery Hawkins
2:38-2:43 Ben Washam
2:45-2:52 Lloyd Vaughan
2:54-3:32 Ken Harris
3:33-4:19 Ben Washam
4:20-5:10 Lloyd Vaughan
5:11-5:33 Phil Monroe
5:34-6:50 Ben Washam

The cartoon opens with a sizable and beautifully animated sequence from Ben Washam. Charlie's character is established nicely through Benny's smooth line work.Throughout this portion Ben accentuates certain facial expressions by occasionally enlarging Charlie's pupils. Another standout sequence comes at 5:33, where Ben comes up with delightful expressions and some marvelous acting. Mike Maltese has put in a clever reference to how Boll weevils devastated the cotton industry in the American south.
Lloyd Vaughan is the other majority on here. His signature style comes through completely in the New York Yankees beating and "Sow belly and Corn pone for lunch" scenes. There is a fair bit of stiffness in Lloyd's scenes, but the Colonel's angry walk at 5:04 is remarkably fluid, and made all the better by his skittery timing(The music here is great too).
Emery Hawkins work is outside of Jones formalities just enough to keep things interesting. He gets some opportunities in  this cartoon to do what he does best: bend and sway characters with his elegant brand of animation; 1:52 provides a very good example. Emery was always drawing characters with curvy limbs and torsos.

Friday, 9 September 2011

"I don't know how yuz done it, but I know yuz done it!"

While the subject matter of Canned Feud is still relatively fresh in our minds, lets take a look at the production immediately before that, "Stooge for a mouse". How 'bout that! It also features Sylvester and the vicious little brown mouse. Kind of bizarre that these two cartoons were released next to each other, but it's probably just a coincidence. In this cartoon the mouse isn't quite as cruel, he has some motivation for his meddling, and he gets some satisfying abuse retribution for being a jerk.

This is Freleng's last cartoon from 1950, and there are lots of changes happening in and around his unit. This is the last screen credit for Gerry Chiniquy until 1954, after the shutdown. Nobody seems to know exactly where he went, but apparently it was out of the animation business. The loss of Chiniquy, Freleng's favorite animator, brought some drastic, interesting, and in some ways preferable stylistic changes to his output. This is also Emery Hawkins last turn for Friz as well, but he's mostly a passing trend. This cartoon was made while Friz was changing his writers, so there's no story credit; I assume he wrote this one himself. Friz later reused all the story elements here for "Bugsy and Mugsy" in 1957. This one has Paul Julian background art, so it's better!

Animation breakdown:
0:30-0:46 Gerry Chiniquy
0:47-1:04 Ken Champin
1:05-1:17 Gerry Chiniquy
1:18-1:32 Emery Hawkins
1:33-1:58 Gerry Chiniquy
1:59-2:14 Ken Champin
2:15-2:32 Virgil Ross
2:33-2:44 Gerry Chiniquy
2:45-3:51 Virgil Ross
3:53-5:02 Art Davis
5:03-6:32 Ken Champin

The animation is executed in a very interesting scheme here. In the first half of the cartoon, the work is broken up and spread between several people. In the second half, Friz probably didn't have Gerry or Emery around anymore, so the scenes are longer and less distributed.
Again, Virgil does excellent work. Friz gives him the dialogue heavy acting scenes, and he does them very well. The emotion and drama runs high, and you feel every bit of it. When Mike lashes out at Sylvester, it's tragic.
Gerry Chiniquy's work is standard fare: stiff, jerky, with precise timing and acting. He draws Sylvester with a larger nose, and well rounded cheeks.
Emery Hawkins doesn't get allot to do in this cartoon, so I don't know why he has top billing. He doesn't get any action scenes that compliment his style, so there's none of his bending or fluttering. His work is particularly clean, though.
Art Davis does the longest uninterrupted stretch of work, so his name is at the top of the credits. Artie gets his typical loose action scenes here, most notably at 4:14. He was always adding extra movement and detail to Sylvester's cheeks. Artie draws Sylvester hairy, with lots of textured jags, especially on the tail where no one else does.
Ken Champin is mostly a place holder this time. Compared to everyone else, his movement is rather generic, but his attention to detail is impressive. He does some great perspective work in the boxing sequence, and the walking scenes with the mouse at the end are marvelous, both in timing and expression.

Monday, 5 September 2011

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Roastin' children!"

"It's a weakness."
This cartoon is a weakness of mine: Bewitched Bunny, from 1954. This is probably my favorite post-Phil Monroe Chuck picture. I first saw it edited into "1001 rabbit tales", the worst of the early 1980s anthology films, and have enjoyed it consistently ever since. It's a delightful take on fairytale conventions that will leave you asking "HANSEL?"
This cartoon was made just before the shut down, when Chuck Jones divided his unit, and handed out cartoons to two different groups. Lloyd, Ben and Ken are on this one, while Abe Levitow and Dick Thompson were doing "Stop! Look! And Hasten!".

Animator breakdown:
0:32-2:54 Ben Washam
2:55-4:53 Ken Harris
4:54-5:20 Ben Washam
5:21-6:47 Lloyd Vaughan

The casting in this cartoon is not very complex at all; everyone comes in and does there bit and leaves it for the next guy, excluding Ben's dying sequence. Lloyd Vaughan draws Bugs with his strange eyes again when he talks to the Prince at 5:42.
The backgrounds in this cartoon are ridiculously flat. Maurice Noble was probably making fun of John Hubley's philosophy that animation is a naturally flat medium, and should be executed as such.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A New Member...

Recently, I've been having a hard time with posting on this blog, as I've felt I couldn't say much. Since I'm very busy with my reviews on my other blog: Likely Looney, Mostly Merrie; I felt that I can't handle two blogs at once, it's very hard work. Plus, I start school tomorrow and it's going to be a very busy year with exams and I can't manage two blogs in such a busy year, only stick to one.

I've decided that to keep this blog going, I decided to get a team member to join my blog and write posts, if interested. I chose a blogger if he wanted to join my blog and write posts, and he was very happy to so do. The person who will be posting more often is Zartok-35 (Elijah Hall) who you've may been familiar in comments from other blogs. He's a very intelligent fellow, with a very interesting background in animation, and also very good at identifying animators, with such a great knowledge of locomotive steamtrains (that counts as culture). I can trust him very much with this blog, and I've spoken to him many times, with such brilliant knowledge, and is a nice person.

I will come back once in a while with posts (particularly on Snow White), but Zartok-35 will be controlling on the upcoming posts, while I will still run the blog, but not do too much posting on it. I hope you will be fine with this idea, and I'll see how this goes.

Animators on Duck Amuck

Hello, everyone! I am Elijah 'Zartok-35' Hall, and Steven has asked me to do some extra posts on here while he isn't as available. I have some experience in running my own blog(which I don't use too much for some reason), and like I always say, I know a fair bit of stuff about arts and culture!

Well, let's cut to the chase! A little while back Steven and I worked out an animator breakdown for Chuck Jones 1953 classic, "Duck Amuck". Throughout this episode Daffy Duck is pushed around by an animator, resulting in a few angry rants, and some interesting exploration of Daffy's character. The animators are Ken Harris, Ben Washam, and Lloyd Vaughan. The Ben-Lloyd-Ken cartoons are usually pretty easy to figure out.

0:26-1:54 Ken Harris
1:58-2:24 Lloyd Vaughan
2:25-2:54 Ken Harris
2:58-3:35 Lloyd Vaughan
3:37-5:35 Ben Washam
5:42-5:58 Lloyd
5:59-6:21 Ken
6:22-6:29 Ben

Ken Harris handles the majority of the work in this cartoon, and has top billing in the credits. Ken does what is probably my favorite scene in the cartoon, at 2:40; the sound effects and expressions come off really well. The introduction to this cartoon is one of the scenes identified in Thad Komorowski's Ken Harris 'Animator reel'.

Ben Washam is famous for coining Daffy's remark "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin!". In this cartoon Ben gets to do the longest uninterrupted stretch of animation, lasting almost two minutes, and "Ain't I a stinker?" at the very end. As always, his work is elegant and appealing, and drawn with wide cheeks.

A very good example of Lloyd Vaughan's draftsmanship is at 2:19, where Daffy breaks the guitar. The eyes are particularly round, and one of them is taller than the other. Lloyd had a tendency to draw his characters with strange tall eyes. As the 1950s wore on, Lloyd drew this way less, but he never really stopped.

Well, that's all for now, folks. I'm glad to be part of the organization! I'll see what else I can come up with in the coming days.